Freckle face (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Also known as: polka dot plant

Freckle face is a small plant that has colourful spotted leaves. It is fast growing and competes with native plants.


How does this weed affect you?

Freckle face is a garden escape that forms dense infestations in the understory of bushland competing with native plants. It has been found in endangered subtropical rainforests.  

What does it look like?

Freckle face is a perennial herb with distinctive coloured spots of various sizes on its leaves.  It grows up to 1 m tall and has small purple flowers from late summer through winter. 

Leaves are:

  • dark green, with pink, white and/or lilac spots on top
  • pale green underneath
  • oval shaped with pointed tips
  • up to 12 cm long and 8 cm wide, gradually get smaller, higher up the stem 
  • densely covered in long white hairs when young becoming less hairy in older leaves
  • on hairy stalks
  • in opposite pairs along the stem.

Flowers are:

  • purple
  • tube-shaped
  • about 2 cm long
  • on the upper parts of the stem and grow from the leaf forks.

Fruit are:

  • a small hairless capsule 
  • 8-12 mm long
  • green to brownish when ripe
  • on the upper parts of the stem and grow from the leaf forks.


  • 2-3 mm long
  • usually 4 per capsule.

Stems are:

  • four sided
  • branched
  • covered in long, white hairs.

Where is it found?

Freckle face grows in coastal areas from the north to central coast of NSW. It is also a weed in some suburbs of Sydney.

It is a popular garden plant and indoor pot plant because of its distinctive spotted leaves. 

It is native to Madagascar. 

What type of environment does it grow in?

Freckle face grows best in warm, shaded areas, with plenty of moisture, but can also tolerate sunny and dry conditions. It grows in forests, woodlands, along waterways and under paddock trees.

How does it spread?

By seed

Seeds are spread by water, animals and in contaminated soil.

By plant parts

Plants can grow from stems or root fragments which are spread by dumping of garden waste. Mowing or slashing can also spread the plant fragments.

More information

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Physical removal

Single plants and small infestations can be controlled by hand pulling plants in damp and loose soil. Plants can be dug out. Remove all of the stem and as much of the root as possible otherwise plants might regrow.

Chemical control

Spot spray using herbicides and a surfactant. Ensure all of the leaves are covered and spray when plants are actively growing.

Herbicide options

Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website

See Using herbicides for more information.

PERMIT 11916 Expires 31/03/2025
Glyphosate 360 g/L (Various products)
Rate: 1 part product to 100 parts water plus surfactant
Comments: Urban bushland, forests and coastal reserves.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: 9 (previously group M), Inhibition of 5-enolpyruvyl shikimate-3 phosphate synthase (EPSP inhibition)
Resistance risk: Moderate

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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All pest plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.

Reviewed 2021